It’s a clear sign of how little I’ve been reading the Austin Chronicle lately that I found today that I’d only read two out of the last six “Letters at 3am,” Michael Ventura’s every-other-week column. This week’s a doozy, predicting nothing less than the end of the world as we know it. The column single-pagedly reminded me that I’ve always been a more or less deeply-closeted anarchist, as I sat grimly chuckling over the total collapse of civilization and barely containing a Burnsian expulsion of “Eggs-cellent.” Not so much because I desire it, but because I’ve sort of expected it all along. Probably has something do do with being subjected to The Day After at a formative age. My parent’s generation had the duck-and-cover cold war, which could (more or less) peter out, but my generation has had an endless supply of fresh pending apocalypseâ€”nuclear, chemical, biological, terrorist, natural, global, extraterrestrialâ€”to keep us on our toes. It’s sort of anticlimactic that the old-school four horsemen like plague, pestilence and co. have been replaced with oil, money, politics and urban collapse, arriving not upon stamping ethereal steeds but in black SUVs and private jets. You know, as anticlimactic as the apocalypse can actually be.
If you’re not an Austinite, you may not know about Ventura, and that’s too bad because he doesn’t talk about Austin much. You could say he’s a big-picture guy. I recommend reading his whole back catalog of Letters columns when you get the chance. They’re 151-strong by now, but they’re short and densely-packed with literary-intellectual goodness. If you can’t quite bring yourself to do it, at least read this one, which is uncharacteristically apolitical and personal, but nicely captures why I’ll read Ventura every time I pick up the Chronicle. It also makes me desperately want to read the mentioned books.
You may not agree with him politically. Even if you’re a liberal, you may not be able to stomach his hard-core projections of just how fucked we are right now. He pulls no punches. But if you can make it through, I think you’ll find yourself enlightened. If you’re anything like me a light will go off, from time to time, and you’ll think, “yeah, that really pulls it all together for me.” What more can you ask from a writer?